Continuous Fiber Felting Machine
This year’s funds ($3,000.00) have all gone to the engineer working on the project for purchasing machine parts and machine development. Current engineer on the project is Don Evans from Woodland Park, CO.
In addition to working with the engineer to fine tune the machine design, Suzanne has also begun the process of marketing the services of the machine. The mill building has been rewired to accommodate the machine, and fiber has been purchased and started through the fiber processing steps in advance of the machines arrival so there will be substantial fibers available to do testing and time studies to determine a pricing structure for the machine's services. The machine's final installation is April 2007.
In test marketing the service, Suzanne has found great interest in the products and services the machine will be able to offer. If the test marketing is anything close to the response to be expected from the fiber industry, bringing it up to full service should double the production of the current operation requiring additional staffing and mill operation hours.
The felting machine is now completed. Delivery to the mill is April 21st. Due to the delay in installation, the schedule for testing has be compressed into 3 weeks and the first demonstration of the machine will be in the mill on April 28th. Time studies to determine a pricing structure for the services will still need to be done and will hopefully be completed by the middle of May. Marketing will continue during this time.
First tests indicate felt will be able to be produced at a rate of at least 20 yards per day which should result in a very quick return on investment.
One new staff person has already been hired in the mill to help with the preparation of fibers in anticipation of the machine's delivery. At least one additional staff person is going to be needed to do fiber carding to meet the demands of the new machine.
WORK PLAN FOR 2007
After final installation of the machine in April of 2007, there will be a three week testing and time study period to determine the pricing structure for the services and products the machine with create.
The first machine educational demonstration is scheduled for April 28th to the Michigan Lama Association.
Demonstrations of products and mill tours with machine demonstrations will take place in May, July, August, September, October and November at guild meetings, fiber events, conferences and directly at the mill.
Full scale marketing will begin in conjunction with the above demonstrations and lectures as well as with ads placed in trade journals and animal and guild newsletters.
The sharing of project information this year was limited to test marketing beginning in mid summer and continuing through the end of the year. This test marketing took place at fiber events and annual meetings of various animal and fiber organizations including but not limited to:
Michigan Fiber Festival, Michigan Lama Breeders Assoc., Michigan Sheep Breeders Assoc., Michigan Farm Bureau-Barry Co, Spinner Flock Spinning Guild, Midwest Felters Symposium, Northern Michigan Lamb and Wool Festival and Llamafest. Field days and demonstrations are not possible until the machine is installed in the mill in April of 2007. In 2007, demonstrations and field days will be scheduled as frequently as possible. The first will be on April 28th. A listing will go in the final report.